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Disney’s doing Cinderella again? What spin are they putting on the classic tale this time? Turns out the spin here is that there is no spin: director Kenneth Branagh sticks close to the bright colours of the animated classic, the cast rarely test the bonds of their cartoony characters and the special effects are used to bring the story’s magic to life rather than create a world tipped too far over into fantasy.
With no real twists, updates (past the multi-racial kingdom) or surprises – this avoids the more gruesome versions of the originals, so no stepsisters cutting off their toes to fit into the glass slipper here – the performances have to carry a bit more weight as far as keeping us watching, and both Eloise Webb (as Ella) and the prince (Richard Madden) certainly look the part while making their outsized characters seem both likeable and at least slightly plausible. Cate Blanchett as the stepmother gets to chew the scenery a bit, but she also gets a back story that at least partially justifies her treating Ella like a slave – which does tend to blunt the fun of her villainy at least a little.
There’s enough humour here to give this a bit of spark – the lizard coachmen on the pumpkin carriage are scene-stealer, as is a one-scene appearance from Rob Brydon as a royal artist – and Helena Bonham Carter gives a winning performance as the Fairy Godmother. But overall this feels like little more than a totally satisfactory rock-solid re-telling of the classic tale, done in such a way that Disney will be able to crank money out of it in every format they can think of for a decade or more.